My mother used to keep a large container of buttons around. We loved digging around in the buttons, sorting with them and making up games. As I grew mom showed me how to sew buttons onto clothing and even make some jewelry with buttons. So I started my own collection of buttons. When I became a nanny I noticed the children loved to get those buttons out as much as I did when I was little. If you aren't a button collector you can purchase buttons at craft stores. You'll find mixed buttons as well as color or shape specific buttons. Here are some ideas on ways you can use buttons that are fun and educational.
This is a great activity for older toddlers and preschoolers. You can make this work for sorting out colors, shapes or size differentiation. Using a muffin tin or egg carton can make it easy for younger ones to drop the button into the right space. To add fine motor skills you can use tweasers or tongs, spoons or scoops to move buttons from one container or space to another.
What a fun and creative way to support letter recognition! Placing the buttons onto the letter that can be written onto a larger piece of paper or you can have a letter cut out. If you glue each of the buttons down you have a nice art piece that can be framed and put in the child's room. Not only does it provide small motor skills and letter recognition but it's creative as well. If you are gluing the buttons down you may need to use glue dots rather than a white craft glue. Glue dots are typically clear and firmly hold heavier or larger items to paper very well. If you do plan to use this as an art piece I would recommend a heavier base paper like card stock or tag board.
Another small motor activity that can result in a bracelet or necklace is button stringing. For smaller hands and younger children choose larger button with large holes in the center. If you purchase buttons from a craft store you'll see that they offer some that are perfect for this activity. I also liked to use pipe cleaners for children if this is their first time with this type of activity. Pipe cleaners maintain a firm base that allow children to get buttons on. Once they have stringing mastered with pipe cleaners you can move to heavy weight string or yarn. There are dull ended needles available to make this process easier. The button to pipe cleaner process is a good one to know as they can then make button flowers.
Button Flowers and Trees
Creative art activities are wonderful using buttons. Here are two that give lovely results, even for the youngest child.
Flowers are made using pipe cleaner or wrapped wire stems and button petals. Children can load the stem with several buttons or one. The finished flower can be put into a pot, made into a 3D display or glued down to a poster board background. They can add leaves, grass or other fun springy items to their finished product. Trees are made by gluing down buttons to a poster board base that has a trunk and branches already painted or drawn on it. The example here uses the child's hand/arm print in brown paint. Or children can paint or draw their own trunk and branches. The buttons serve as leaves or flowers. Wherever the buttons land on their tree is fine - - - it's their creative choice.
Button Counting Game
This is similar to the sorting activity but we're introducing number recognition and counting into the mix. In this example you'll see drawn jars with a number assigned to each. The child then places buttons on each jar coordinating with that number. I've done this by placing the numbers in egg carton spaces. It's good for reinforcing sequencing as well - two comes after one, followed by three, etc. Once a child understand each number and their relationship to the amount of buttons you can mix things up and see if they are connecting the concepts. This segues into simple addition or subtraction activities.